It’s 5:30 a.m. and the lobby of the Deer Park Hotel is buzzing with excitement …or is it anticipation? Today we try to summit the much-talked about and carefully planned hike to the top of Danigala. This rock is also known as the Alien Mountain because of its unique semi-circular shape caused by geological activities and weathering conditions or, perhaps some mysterious alien activity. It is also, interestingly,  called the ‘Star Gate of King Ravana’, because, according to folklore, it is where Ravana landed his famed ‘Dandu Monara’.

We travel towards Aralaganwila to the Kandegama Rajamaha Viharaya, (also called Dhananjaya Rajamaha Viharaya), that lies at the foothill of this mysterious mountain. Again, it is the head priest that has to allow us to climb and he sends for a villager to act as our guide. No one is allowed to climb without one and we will soon find out why!

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There are four vehicles with 20 excited travellers, all prepped and ready for a weekend of serious climbing. We leave Colombo at 4:30 a.m. and journey on the Minuwangoda – Giriulla – Narammala – Wariyapola – Maho – Madagalla road  towards Nikawewa.

Our first stop is the Sri Nagala Rajamaha Viharaya, that lies at the foothill of the Nikawewa mountain range. But our goal is to climb the mountain to reach the ancient stupa and image house that clings onto the edge of this mountain.

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Having visited the majestic Sinharaja Rainforest from the Pitadeniya entrance just last week, this weekend we are on our way to Morningside. I’ve heard too much about this side to miss this opportunity.

Morningside is in the eastern side of the Sinharaja, hence named by colonial tea planters of the Lankaberiya Estate.  It is located off Suriyakanda between Rakwana and Deniyaya and you guessed right…the road leading up to the bungalow is terrible! The Sinhala translation is “himidiri pedesa”.

But once there, the views are somewhat breathtaking.

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Looking for someplace closer to Colombo to travel to, I stumbled upon The Ark in Matugama. The journey along the Southern Expressway was less than an hour and yet the steep climb in the latter part of the trip makes it seem as if I am in the central province.

The narrow winding road climbs through shrub and (sometimes) dense jungle up until the car park. From that point, there is a short walk to The Ark.

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Happy birthday Rajah!

So it’s back to the Rainforest Eco Lodge for a birthday celebration. This time, the Southern Expressway cuts down my travel time considerably although the last hour of the road condition leading up to the Lodge is pretty messed up.

Once I pass the Park Office gates and enter the protected forest area, the scenery changes dramatically. Driving through the forest is like entering a layered crayon box of green colors. From the differing shades of colors of the foliage, to the serenity, the fresh air, the sounds of birds, crickets and other small insects adds another dimension to this forest.

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